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ECU Pounces On UNC-W 16-7 in NCAA Regional Baseball Action

ECU advances to the winner's bracket against South Carolina Saturday afternoon at 5 p.m. in Clark-LeClair Stadium.
ECU advances to the winner's bracket against South Carolina Saturday afternoon at 5 p.m. in Clark-LeClair Stadium. (PirateIllustrated.com photo)

(12)ECU scored early and often and went on to pick up a convincing 16-7 Friday night victory over UNC-W in the first round of the NCAA Baseball regional at Clark-LeClair Stadium.

With the win the Pirates now advance into the winners bracket against South Carolina at 5 o’clock Saturday afternoon. The Gamecocks beat Ohio State 8-3 Friday afternoon.

Pirate starter Chris Holba gave up six earned runs on eight hits but hung in there for four and a third innings before Ryan Ross(4-4) came on in relief to eventually get the win. West Covington also came in to throw two scoreless innings and shut the door for ECU(44-16).

The Pirates are now 12-0 this season when scoring 10 or more runs in a contest and stand 25-2 when collecting 10 or more hits in a game.

Alex Royalty(6-4) got the start and took the loss for UNC-Wilmington. Royalty lasted just two innings after giving up eight runs on seven hits with just a pair of strikeouts. Then a bevy of six Seahawk pitchers staffed the mound in relief.

“I want to thank Pirate Nation for coming out. The crowd was awesome. It was the first time we’ve hosted a regional since I’ve been here. I thought the environment was electric which is what we needed,” ECU head Cliff Godwin afterward.

“Our offense played really well tonight. I thought we played really good defense and we needed it. UNC-Wilmington is a really good team. Really good offensively and those guys really had a lot of quality at bats against our pitching and our offense just kept scoring which is what we needed.”

Godwin talked about the big time atmosphere in Clark-LeClair Stadium Friday night.

“I’ve coached at LSU and Ole Miss and there has been a few more fans at those places but I don’t know if it could have been any more electric than our place was tonight, especially early when Litton hit that home run. The place was rocking and it was awesome,” said Godwin who told PirateIllustrated.com, “It lets us play a little bit later than if we had lost so we can get a little more rest. Obviously we’re going to enjoy this for about thirty minutes then we’ll get to bed and get ready for South Carolina.”

Bryant Packard went three for four with a pair of runs. Jake Washer tied a career high for hits in a game when he went three for six with three runs. Meanwhile Connor Litton generated three hits of his own in his four tries to score two runs and pace a 17-hit ECU attack with 16 runs and 14 RBI.

“The fans were in it almost every pitch even when we were going up on them really hard. Not many people were leaving the stands and that says a lot about our fans staying until the end. It was really exciting,” said Packard.

“It feels really good to come through for the guys. I know they look at me as a role model and a leader and I know that I have to come to play every day,” Connor Litton said, “Especially playing in front of that type of atmosphere, I don’t know how you can’t get ready to play. As soon as I ran on the field to play I had cold chills and my hair stood up.”

ECU’s four-run first inning set the tone for the evening. RBI hits from Jake Washer and Drew Henrickson along with a two-run Connor Litton homer to right field keyed the early rally for the Pirates. It was Litton's ninth homer of the season.

After the two teams traded runs in the second frame, a Ryan Jeffers base hit to right scored two UNC-W runs before ECU got into the act again in the bottom of the frame when Drew Henrickson scored on a wild pitch followed by a pair of sacrifice RBI that found ECU up 8-3.

In the bottom of the fourth Henrickson reached on a throwing error and Spencer Brickhouse scored. Then Brady Lloyd’s sacrifice bunt allowed Jake Washer to score to put the Pirates up 10-3.

Wilmington then scored three runs in the fifth on a Ryan Jeffers double to left center and a booming two-run Kep Brown homer to left that got the Seahawks back within the realm of reason at 10-6

Brickhouse, Henrickson and Litton produced runs in the bottom of the fifth inning and suddenly ECU was up by a touchdown at 13-6.

Kep Brown’s ripped a double down the left field line in the seventh inning that produced a UNC-W run. Then Henrickson and Litton produced RBI singles before Bryson Worrell’s double to right scored another run to make it 16-7.

ECU POST GAME PRESS CONFERENCE

UNC-W POST GAME PRESS CONFERENCE

PI PHOTOS: ECU 16 UNC-WILMINGTON 7